Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Ever Thought About Writing Speeches?

By Susan Reichert, Editor-in-Chief for Southern Writers Magazine 

Have you ever considered writing a speech for someone? As writers, we normally don’t think in terms of anything but fiction, non-fiction, poetry, essays, memoirs, and short stories. But with the elections going on I decided to look into speech writing.

If you can write fiction you can write speeches. That’s my attempt at humor. In all seriousness, speechwriters are employed not just for politicians but for many senior level executives both in the government and private sectors. Did you know they also are hired to write for weddings and all kinds of social occasions?

Now in case you didn’t know these speechwriters work with the person they are writing the speech for to determine the theme, points to cover, the message the person wants to get across and what position he wants to take.

Executive speechwriter Anthony Trendl writes, “Speechwriters specialize in a kind of writing that merges marketing, theater, public relations, sales, education and politics all in one presentation.”
So now we know those speeches we here are written to get us on the side of the speech giver!

As writers we are used to getting comments, good or bad…in other words criticism, on our writing so we will not be surprised that this also happens in speechwriting. Each draft you write will go through this procedure until you have it just the way the person wants it. And don’t be surprised when they started wanting it to go in one direction and then change it after they see a draft or two to go in a different direction.

You also have to work with tight deadlines. Well, authors work with deadlines when they are writing a novel for their publishers.

One of the things a speechwriter must know up front when writing speeches for other people, they have to be able to accept anonymity. A speechwriter is like a ghostwriter. They don’t officially get acknowledgement.

We all remember John F. Kennedy’s words, “Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.” Who should get the credit? John F. Kennedy or Ted Sorensen (the speechwriter) or to both?

Theodore Roosevelt’s speech “Duties of American Citizenship” one of the
35 greatest speeches in history as is Winston Churchill’s “We Shall Fight on the Beaches.”

There is a speechwriter’s guild, “The UK Speechwriters’ Guild” for professional writers who specialize in writing speeches. From what I can find, speechwriters do not usually have specific training in the area and/or the field in which the speech is written for. Oh, and most speechwriters don’t have specific training in the writing craft, at least not that I have been able to find. Check with the Guild.

You will be glad to know a lot of research has to be done on the topic. And if you are an outliner you will waltz through writing the framework for the speech. Remember what we’ve been told…know your audience…who are you going to market to? Same for a speechwriter.

Well, who knows, with all our experience writing should we offer our services to writing a speech?

What are your thoughts?

Monday, September 26, 2016


By Dandi Daley Mackall

My first book came out 36 years ago. (I was, of course, 3 years old, for you math majors.) Since then, I’ve had nearly 500 books published by practically every major U.S. publisher, and I’ve written in every genre, except science fiction. Yet all of my books have one thing in common—they contain frozen moments.

So, what’s a frozen moment? And how can you exploit yours to take you deeper into your book? Here’s how my narrator explains the concept in Larger-Than-Life Lara:

All of this happened in just a couple of seconds, I guess, but it felt like it was a frozen piece of time. Mrs. Smith told us about “frozen moments.” Sometimes whole countries and even the whole world has stuff happen that people will remember for the rest of their lives. Like Mrs. Smith said she knows people who were alive when President John F. Kennedy got shot and killed dead. And every single one of them can tell you where they were and what they were wearing and who else was in the room with them when that president got shot and killed. Plus also, you can ask Mrs. Smith herself where she was on that day of 9/11…and her eyes will go blank because they’re seeing it happen all over again. That’s what Mrs. Smith says. And I believe her because I can tell you exactly where I was when that school shooting happened. . . .

But the stuff about frozen moments is important because if you land into one, then you got you some good material for your story. Because you can call it up in your head again and have everything you need right there. It doesn’t go away on you, like other memories. It’s frozen. And this can be a good thing or a bad thing.

I guarantee that you have frozen moments—a teacher said, “You’re a good reader.” A kid said, “You can’t play/sit/hang with us.” Scientists have done brain studies highlighting memory. An intense emotion can “brand” the brain so that even when you can’t remember what you had for breakfast, if you had breakfast, or what breakfast is, you’ll remember that frozen moment.

Use those! Something that intense has to be exploited for your story. Only once (in my almost-autobiographical novel, The Secrets of Tree Taylor) have I used such a moment as-is. Yet my best scenes come from “stolen” frozen moments--a slap and a white pick-up in Silence of Murder; 2 boyfriend-breakup-moments in My Boyfriends’ Dogs, the novel and the movie; a scene from Eva Underground that might make you hurl as Eva and I did; countless exhilarating moments with my horses in the five series of horse novels, and on and on.

Take an hour and list as many specific moment-memories as you can. Start with your first memory and keep going. Then let your characters share your frozen moments. Your unforgettable moments will make vivid scenes your readers will never forget.
Dandi won her first writing contest as a 10-year-old tomboy. Her 50 words on “Why I Want to Be Batboy for the Kansas City A’s” won first place, but the team wouldn’t let a girl be batboy. It was her first taste of rejection. Since then, Dandi Daley Mackall has become an award-winning author of about 500 books for all ages, with sales of 4 million copies in 22 countries. She is winner of the Helen Keating Ott Award for Contributions to Children’s Literature and the Distinguished Alum Award from University of Missouri. In 2016, she was inducted to the OCIRA (International Reading Association’s) Hall of Fame. The Silence of Murder is winner of the Edgar Award and ALA-YALSA Best Fiction for Young Adults. Legend of Ohio and Rudy Rides the Rails: A Depression Era Story won Notable Book awards - Notable Social Studies Trade Book for Young People National Council of Social Studies & Children's Book Council; winner of the Angel Award, Winner of the "Award of Excellence" from Chicago Book Show) and A Girl Named Dan (her own “batboy” story, and a lesson on Title IX), 2 Mom’s Choice Awards & Amelia Bloom Award. The novel, Eva Underground, nominated ALA Best Book, starred Kirkus review, awarded a Top Teen Read by New York Public Library, finalist for Ohioana Award, was based on the author’s experiences behind the Iron Curtain. Other books have been awarded Romantic Times’ Top Pick., KY Bluegrass Award List, the William Allan White Award list, KS and KY Children’s Choice lists, and the Delaware Diamond Top 5 list, Gold Medallion Award. My Boyfriends’ Dogs (now a Hallmark movie, “most watched” 2014), gained her national attention. Her Knopf/Random House novel, The Secrets of Tree Taylor. Dandi is a national speaker, keynoting at conferences and Young Author events, and has made dozens of appearances on TV, including ABC, NBC, and CBS. New Releases: October 2016--Larger-than-Life Lara, Fall 2016—One Small Donkey, March 2017 –With Love, Wherever You Are,Tyndale House, A novel based on the true story of Dandi’s parents, Army Dr. and Army nurse in WW2, and over 600 of their wartime lettersAlso in 2017: Rockaway Blues, Skyhorse, a rollicking, rhyming rock-‘n’-roll picture book. Visit Dandi at www.dandibooks.com, and on Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, etc.

Friday, September 23, 2016


By Joseph L. Richardson

I am not writing this article about myself, but about the pronouns me, I, her, him, she, and others, especially subjective case pronouns used instead of objective case pronouns.

Have the rules for the English language changed since I went to school many years ago? Way back then—before English was renamed “Language Arts”—correct English was stressed in school. If you didn’t pass English, you didn’t advance to the next grade. I am not a grammar expert, but some things I do remember from English classes.

Today I often hear and read the incorrect use of subjective pronouns used in the objective case. Is it now correct to say “Sam went to the movie with she and I?” No, but I hear and see that type misuse frequently. Perhaps some people feel that her and me are too informal.

During the last few months I have read four novels by a well-known mystery writer. Throughout the books he wrote, “…with Suzie and I or so-and-so and I.”  I’ve also heard TV reporters or celebrities use the subjective pronoun instead of the objective. I could write an article on subjective and objective pronouns, but I doubt many readers would read the whole thing. Instead, there is a simple way to determine the correct usage.

When you have more than one objective pronouns in a sentence, such as “Sam went with she and I,” there is a simple test for correctness. Read it as though there were two sentences. Would you say “Sam went with she” or “Sam went with I?” NO. Then use the objective pronouns you used in the individual sentences. “Sam went with her,” and “Sam went with me.” Simple, easy, and correct.

SO: She and I (subjective) went to the movie with him and her (objective)
He and she (subjective) went to the movie with her and me (objective).
Joseph Richardson, is a native Floridian raised on a farm between Ocala and Silver Springs until age fifteen when the family moved to St. Petersburg. Graduated from St. Petersburg High School and earned a B.S. from the University of Alabama. He retired from NASA, Kennedy Space Center after more than thirty-five years government service including U.S. Army, Internal Revenue Service and NASA. Was Chief, Administration and Logistics for Expendable Launch Vehicles and Shuttle Payloads Operations. Joe is an army veteran of the Korean War. He lives in Titusville, FL with Joan, his wife of sixty-one years, and their three “rescued” cats. FIRE ANGELS received the 2015 Patrick D. Smith Award for Literary Excellence. And previously received a five star review and Honorable Mention in the Writer’s Digest 2014 Self-Published eBook competition.


Thursday, September 22, 2016

How Large is Your Ego?

By Doyne Phillips, Managing Editor for Southern Writers Magazine 

When it comes to ego, size matters! Your ego is usually judged by others but most of the time we do not hear the final judgment unless it is negative. Should you have a large ego it usually is considered a negative. One of my favorite quotes is, “He may not be much but he is all he thinks about.” Honestly those with a large ego can intimidate us and maybe it is because we do not have that self-conception in such a large way as they do.

Small egos are addressed in such a different manner as to make you think you are lacking. You are encouraged with pep talks, “Win this one for the Gipper”, motivating words and phrases like Nike’s Just Do It and stories of overcoming great odds like the Tortoise and the Hare.      

Your ego can be perceived as a positive or a negative gift but a gift all the same.  In a recent interview Bruce Springsteen was asked how he determined to get started in the music business. Revealing his ego Springsteen replied, “I had listened to those guys on the radio and thought I was better than some of them. They just didn’t know it yet.” Like many of us Springsteen knew in is heart he was good. His ego felt he may even be better than some. This was enough to get him started in that direction and the rest is history.

During the interview Springsteen was asked where he thought his drive comes from and he answered, “I believe every artist has someone who told him that they weren’t worth dirt and someone who told them they were the second coming of baby Jesus and they believed them both. And that’s the fuel that starts the fire.” And I would add it also the fuels your ego.  Many of us have been shortchanged by someone’s low opinion of our abilities. That hurts and can destroy some of us. But there is that other part of us that can lift us up when that happens. It’s our ego. With a strong ego we tend to remember those that thought we were the second coming of baby Jesus and put off those with discouraging words.

As a writer you must know as you read some things that have made it to print and wonder how it did, you must know, as Springsteen did, that you are better than some of them. You must also know that some will say as a writer you aren’t worth dirt. You can’t listen to them because they may be the same people that printed those books that you are puzzled about how they got into print. They were wrong before. You must also know some will say you are the second coming of baby Jesus. Careful what you listen too.

As a young girl from south Arkansas once said to me, “My Daddy told me never get no higher than pickin’ corn or lower than diggin’ tators.” I say Daddy was a wise man. Don’t let your ego take you higher than pickin’ corn or lower than diggin’ tators. Listen to your heart and keep the fire fueled with your love of writing.         


Wednesday, September 21, 2016

How to Cheat When Writing Historical Fiction

By Sarah Loudin Thomas

I write historical fiction . . . but I cheat.

I only just realized this as my third novel was about to release in August 2016. I’ve long struggled with genre and fitting what I write into a specific slot. Maybe it’s historical. Maybe it’s romance. Maybe it’s historical romance. OR it just might be women’s fiction.

Regardless of my dithering, my novels are often characterized as historical fiction. Which is fine with me. But then I realized something . . . I don’t work nearly as hard as most other authors of historical fiction do.

I really enjoy the genre and often read it. Right now I’m enjoying Leaving Independence by Leanne W. Smith. It’s about a woman traveling the Oregon Trail with her four children in pursuit of a footloose husband. I love the descriptions of places and clothing and social customs. It all feels very real to me—like Leanne did excellent research.

Which brings me to cheating. I research very little. Oh, I look up timelines and newspaper headlines for context, but I’m not exactly immersing myself in the westward movement of the 1860s. I don’t have to research what the wagons were like. I don’t have to wonder about clothing and food. And if I read someone’s diary, it’s just because I want to.

All I’ve really needed to do is listen and ask questions.

The furthest back my novels have traveled is 1948. My father was born in 1941 and he remembers a good bit from those days. As did my grandmother who shared many a story before she passed. If I want to know what kind of stove someone would have cooked on in rural Appalachia in 1954, I call Dad and ask him.

It’s as though I’ve been researching all my life. I’m from West Virginia and one of our primary forms of entertainment is telling stories. This drives my husband nutty. He’ll look at me as Dad launches into that story about a dog named Sloomer and mouth, “We’ve heard this one.”

Yes, we have. And hearing it again will only drive it a bit deeper into my psyche and make it that much more real when I weave it into a story.

Turns out there’s more than one-way to skin a cat. Digging deep into research—becoming an expert on a specific time period—is wonderful. I have deep respect for writers who spend as much or more time researching as they do writing.

But when I took a notion to write historical fiction (not realizing that’s what it was), all I had to do was dredge up the stories I heard at my father’s knee. Stories he’s still happy to tell sitting on the porch of an evening.

Some folks say if you want to write, write what you know and that’s how I’ve managed to cheat at research. I write what I know from a lifetime of listening.  
Sarah Loudin Thomas grew up on a 100-acre farm in French Creek, WV, the seventh generation to live there. Her Christian fiction is set in West Virginia and celebrates the people, the land, and the heritage of Appalachia. Her first novel, Miracle in a Dry Season, released August 2014 through Bethany House. Book #2, Until the Harvest,released May 2015. Sarah and her husband Jim live in the mountains of Western North Carolina with Thistle–the canine equivalent to a personal trainer pushing them to hike, run, and throw sticks. Sarah is active in her local church and enjoys cooking and–you guessed it–reading. Her social media links are: www.SarahLoudinThomas.com   www.facebook.com/SarahLoudinThomas  @SarahAnneThomas   www.pinterest.com/sarahlthomas

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Speaking of Speaking

by Gary Fearon, Creative Director, Southern Writers Magazine

In every successful writer's life, the time will come when you speak in front of an audience.  Perhaps a writers group will invite you to be a guest, or you yourself will seek out a suitable venue to promote your book. In either case, few authors are trained in both writing and public speaking, so first timers sometimes learn the ropes the hard way.

Last weekend, I had the opportunity to attend a talk by a physician who had recently been published. The newspaper blurb indicated that he would be speaking from his book, and since the subject matter was of interest, I did indeed check it out.  During that hour I was reminded of certain presentation do's and don'ts that I needed to remember, which I hope will benefit you too.

More than one comedian has introduced someone with those very words and then walked away.  Most of us, however, want and need to be introduced to the audience.  Do yourself a favor and come up with the wording you prefer.  Provide the person introducing you with a short paragraph about you.  This info may already be in the program if there is one.  Only if you're good friends with the presenter would you want them to adlib an intro for you.

TESTING, 1, 2, 3...
Whenever possible, check the sound system personally beforehand.  At the weekend talk I attended, the author no sooner started speaking when deafening feedback filled the room.  A sound guy rushed to his aid and quickly adjusted the volume, but at least four more times during the talk additional screeches marred the presentation.  To the author's credit, he waited patiently each time and never called attention to it, much less made any disparaging remarks.

Not every talk needs a slide show or PowerPoint presentation, but if you're going to have one, make sure your laptop is plugged in.  A few minutes into his program, the author's photos were obscured by a popup message about the battery getting ready to die.  The next few minutes were devoted to someone retrieving a power cord and eventually restoring the visual aids.  Fortunately, the audience took it in stride and even saw the humor in it, aided by the author's own willingness to joke about his error.

Technical problems aside, something the author could have done better involved the subject matter of the presentation itself.  The audience came expecting to hear wisdom based on his new nonfiction book.  Instead, we learned where he grew up, where he went to school, and how he got into medicine, accompanied by photos of all the people who encouraged him to become a doctor.  It's one thing to share one's expertise, but the aforementioned introduction could have covered that.  The book itself was mentioned only a couple of times, and when it was, just one helpful bit of info was shared. Yes, we got to know the author, but we didn't get to assess whether his book would be worth having.  Bottom line: deliver what the audience expects.

Watch some videos of talks given by leading authors and observe how their presentations reflect their brand. Your favorite authors are readily found on YouTube.  I'll recommend this one by Amalie Jahn, which I return to periodically.  Her TED presentation is a prime example of poise, humor and information.  http://www.amaliejahn.com/blog/chapter-23-ted-talk-me-on-the-big-red-dot

Presentations don't have to be flashy or slick, and you don't have to be the great orator.  Just being yourself and giving the audience something they can take away, whether it's useful instruction or a heartfelt story, is what will make your talk one they'll appreciate.

Monday, September 19, 2016

Writing Inspiration

By Carolina Carter

Late in the sweltering August of 1998, I found myself in my kitchen, cutting butter into flour for a piecrust.  When each pass of the oscillating fan, bits of ingredients flew into my ponytail.  On the television perched on top of my fridge, the evening news murmured on.  My thoughts wandered, focused on my task but also drifting this way and that. Recently and suddenly, I had lost my young uncle to lymphoma.  I missed him.  I wondered what it meant that he could disappear so quickly. 

Pieces of the news filtered in and out of my consciousness like the flying bits of flour and butter.  When a news hour essayist began to read his piece, my imagination entangled with his ideas.  His essay covered people who have departed, and he made the point that “we don’t like to think of them as dead.  We like to think of them in some paradise, leading a new life.  Somewhere, Judge Crater sits in a nightclub sipping champagne from a floozy’s slipper. Somewhere, Amelia Earhart tends her garden and watches jet planes overhead.”

I stopped.  At the desk in the kitchen, on the notepad next to the telephone, and I wrote down what he said.  That slip of paper, nearly two decades later, still has the stain of butter and some permanently affixed flour.  I couldn’t understand then that I had begun Under the Legend.  While it would not arrive until 2016, it would be about his imagined paradise on earth.

You have scrawled notes like this in your house I know it.  Even if you are already an established writer, you have scraps of ideas that don’t appear to hold the weight of an entire novel.  But you also have, I am certain, a powerful imagination.  That tendril of an idea can become an intractable weed, impossible to eradicate from the garden of your thoughts by no other means than writing that novel.  An idea has chosen you.  Don’t let it down.

Every writer has a recipe, and here is mine: read your idea, and then ask yourself “but what if...”  Repeat.  At some point early on, a character will begin speaking to you.  Listen to her.  The voice will not be your own, and that is frightening.  Keep listening.  You may not be able to do this immediately, as I was not.  Many years might pass before you can translate the story you’ve been given.  Consider this proofing time, and not procrastination. 

The novel I am writing now started as a dream.  When I woke from it at 3:00am, I wrote down the idea, and the title, Watching the Caitlin Channel.  At first light, however, both my handwriting and the premise appeared too small.  But as the morning unfolded, I managed to remind myself that it was not up to me to choose an idea; an idea had now chosen me.  The missing ingredient to this novel was not a new premise, but an old and beloved standby: faith. 

Carolina Carter is the only child of an independent bookstore owner. She spent much of her childhood in the backseat of her mother's yellow Volkswagen bug, traveling the United States on book-buying adventures. Now a professional writer in New York City, Carolina balances her urban life with frequent escapes to the beach towns on route 30A along Florida's panhandle. She still enjoys a long road trip, a dusty bookshop, and the adventure of the perfect read.